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REVIEWS

A Declaration and Philosophy of Progressive Nationalism

by Graham Williamson and TP Bragg.

Review: A Declaration and Philosophy of Progressive Nationalism

This is an interesting, and long overdue attempt to fuse dark green and nationalist ideas. Greens have tended to espouse a ‘one world’ approach that has downplayed or even denied the importance of national identity while nationalists have often simply focussed narrowly on preserving sovereignty ignoring either environmental or social well-being. it’s time, these authors argue, for a new progressive nationalism that resolves this contradiction and places the natural environment at the heart of the nationalist cause.

It also represents a departure from the usual format of the political pamphlet since it deals not just with a set of institutional changes that might be needed (set out by Graham Williamson in part one) but also provides a much more meditative philosophical and even poetic underpinning to the argument than one is normally used to in pamphlets of this kind (T.P. Bragg’s contribution in part two). Left and Right brains both need to be engaged when reading it therefore and some of the ideas are buried deep down and only fully reveal themselves after repeated reading. But it’s well worth the effort.

It would violate the authors’ intentions to see this as a polished finished work. It’s more an invitation to a folk moot discussion where many other hands will be required to help develop the ideas. And the combination of intellect and feeling that weaves its way through this pamphlet precisely reflects the nature of our own many sided relationship with nature and nation. What these authors grasp both intellectually and intuitively is the intimate connection between a sense of nationhood and an appreciation of landscape and the natural habitat and how damage to one also damages the other.

This intimate weaving together of national and ecological feeling underpins the practical and passionate engagements of millions of people in their direct relation with the countryside. Walking, gardening, bird watching, tending the allotment, are pastimes that retain a tremendous hold over many. The membership of single organisations such as the National Trust or the RSPB dwarf that of all political parties combined. For increasing numbers of people the most important issue in their lives is right livelihood with nature that is manifested in daily small scale local practical actions to conserve and preserve, protect and nurture.

The political system has failed to engage many of the people simply because it does not address the issues that are fundamental to our future. All the existing political belief systems and their parties only see the environment as a bolt-on to a set of pre-existing assumptions about the superiority of our present unsustainable growth mania. We are hearing a lot at the moment about Islamic fundamentalism and how it threatens our way of life but that other fundamentalism of the free market is in its own way just as fatal to our future. Some see the small community as the best hope of resisting this homogenisation of the world while others look to revive forms of anarchist or socialist ideology instead. But it is the nation, as the authors of this pamphlet clearly recognise, that is the social and cultural unit best placed from which to launch a resistance movement against the nascent new world capitalist order since it is just the right size itself to be able to stand up to and control those institutions that by their actions are undermining both national and environmental survival. Small communities still need the nation to protect them.

So a green nationalism is what is needed. My one quibble with this thought provoking and inspiring pamphlet is with the title. Why didn’t they just call it ‘green nationalism’ and avoid the unfortunate connotations that the term ‘progressive’ conjures up? It was, I suppose, so that they could distance themselves from the Neanderthal right and those who would make skin colour the be all and end all of community. The authors reject this approach. They also, necessarily, reject a simplistic ‘multiculturalism’ beloved of so many ‘greens’, precisely on ecological as well as social cohesion grounds. Diversity of human cultures and natural habitats is essential and a sign of health but any one eco-system (read nation) cannot be too diverse since it loses all sense of commonality and eventually will succumb to other, stronger and more cohesive systems. Unfortunately the Neanderthal left is still likely to misunderstand the subtleties of this argument so the authors’ fastidiousness will have been wasted. Better to call a spade a spade in my view and use it to start opening up a debate about where nationalism in general and in particular our own English branch is heading. This pamphlet is a very good beginning to that debate.

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